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Bofinger – Paris

When I first went to Paris on my own for two weeks only, I went to contemplate life, to make decisions, marriage including. It was in August, 2003 – the year when Paris was liberated 60 years ago from the Nazis. Well, Paris was a free spirit and even loved the Americans. My Russian accented English was welcome everywhere.

In general, the easiest way to “survive” Paris is to go for the “prescribed walks” during the daytime, the hardest way to survive is to go for dinner on your own. Not because it is Paris, it is because going for dinner on your own in an unknown city it’s a hardest thing to do for a woman… That was my thoughts and anxieties thrown together.

That’s how thought a woman, who never had a dinner on her own in her own life since her brain started to develop…

It put my life strictly into perspective and made me think that marriage was the best invention in life…

 

Nevertheless, it was August, and the asphalt was melting. My little apartment under the roof did not have any air-conditioning. And it was melting too. Drinking wine and eating cheese under this hottest roof for the 4th day in the row would have killed my Paris spirit forever. My prescribed walk (I lived in Bastille) told me to go to Brasserie Bofinger. En plus I decided to try steak tartare. I took a book with me (I needed it as much as a fur coat on this balmy evening).  I took a plunge and …

Forget the steak tartare, I entered the most beautiful restaurant institution in Paris. Of course there were no tables available, but flirting in English with a Russian accent gets you anywhere in France…I got the best table under the most beautiful ceiling, Art Nouveau could ever invented (please forgive my naivete, I was mesmerised). The waiter did not leave my side and …of course…I decided on oysters Fin De Claire number 4, and on (Please God, if I have to burn in hell, could you make the temperature there a bit lower) Foie Gras steak on apple puree and brioche. I also ordered Bourgogne and I drank (wow) two glasses of it.

I was in heaven, I also justified to myself that the ducks are fed in the same way, as all Jewish children are, by force (from my own experience)…Since that “fatal” evening I was eating out on my own in Paris every day. My fear was unleashed…

A little bit of history…

 

In 1996, when the French restaurateur Jean-Paul Bucher announced he was buying the great Parisian brasserie Bofinger, in a narrow lane just off the Place de

la Bastille, the regular customers reacted furiously. In a city where its great brasseries are regarded not merely as restaurants but as grand historic symbols as rich in heritage as any museum or opera house. They are temples to the French way of food, which must surely never be allowed to come under the control marketing men. Despite this, over a 30-year period, Bucher has purchased nearly a dozen in the French capital for his Flo restaurant group, including famous names like La Coupole and Terminus Nord (been there, they are wonderful too).

 

Bofinger was opened in 1864 by FrÀdÀric Bofinger, a refugee from war-torn Alsace on France’s north-eastern border with Germany. The first Bofinger was tiny: little more than a bar that served draught beers – it was the first establishment in Paris to do so – and charcuterie. It soon became fashionable and has remained that way, as it has expanded and grown, through four different owners, including one of the Rothschild family.

Today it occupies almost the entirety of the rue de la Bastille, its brilliant red awnings decorated with an over sized gold ‘B’. The whole of the interior is now a protected national monument. But the crowning glory is the intricate glass dome above the central dining room. Upstairs there is more rustic room, named after the Alsatian artist whose Teutonic landscapes decorate its walls.. Bofinger seats 300. Each day a staff of around 100 – 30 of them in the kitchen – serve 800 diners. One of the most important things about Brasserie Bofinger, it is always busy. My sometimes, beautiful eyes and my English Russian accent secures me the table almost every time. If my luck ever stops, I will go for a plastic surgery)…

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